KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Strong enforcement is needed to ensure the effectiveness of any law aimed at curbing contraband cigarettes, the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) said today.
Its president Datuk Paul Selva Raj welcomed the federal government’s announcement to strengthen the Customs Act 1967 to crack down on those found selling smuggled cigarettes, saying weak enforcement would drive the trade deeper underground.
“Of course if they sell illicit cigarettes they have to be punished,” Selva Raj told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
“I think we need to be serious. Cigarette prices are going up to limit smoking. Today more than 50 per cent [of Malaysians] are smokers so it defeats all purpose of trying to reduce smokers,” he added.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani was reported saying yesterday that amendments to the Act would be tabled in the next Parliament sitting.
He said the proposed changes include harsher penalties for anyone found to sell illicit cigarettes.
Currently, Section 135 (1)(d) of the Customs Act 1967 states that those found guilty of being in possession of illicit cigarettes can be fined up to 20 times the value of the contraband cigarettes or jailed for up to three years or both.
Illicit cigarettes sales accounts for about 50 per cent of the entire legal sales of cigarettes, resulting in a hefty losses for the government from unpaid tax for cigarettes.
Fomca said it supports the government move to amend the Customs Act as it sees stronger punishments as a key to winning the war against contraband cigarettes and curb smoking.
“The law needs to be amended so that enforcement could be effective. Just do the necessary,” he said.